Experts weigh in on effectiveness of e-learning

Students from Fawe Girls School use tech-enabled learning systems on February 11. Rwanda Educational Board (REB) has introduced a YouTube channel to facilitate students and pupils to continue studying from home during the COVID-19 lockdown. / Photo: File.

Prince Dushimimana is 11-year old primary five student at Groupe Scolaire Gisozi in Gasabo District.

Before schools were closed on March 16th, he had had a personal ambition to move from 11th position that he had got the previous term, upwards. Now that he no longer goes to school, he uses his notebooks to read notes and redo exercises that were given in class, although he knows he is missing out on class work.  


Dushimimana is not aware that he can continue his program on REB e-learning platform, REB YouTube channel or on Radio Rwanda every workday at 8 am and 4 pm courtesy of a new programme initiated by government to ensure students are kept engaged during this lockdown.


The two platforms were introduced last week.


According to Emmanuel Hakizimana, the Headmaster of Groupe Scolaire Paysannat L in Kirehe District, there are many students like Dushimimana who are far from accessing e-learning. He thinks that they will start over when schools resume.

Assuming that Dushimimana is not the only student who is not aware of the efforts to facilitate remote learning, how effective is e-learning?

The New Times put the question to education experts to find out what can be done to make it effective.

Hard to afford and access e-learning

Hakizimana said that one of the challenges that inhibit students from accessing e-learning is that some cannot afford phones or radios, their only choice is to wait until the school resumes.

In an interview with The New Times, Dr. Lonzen Rugira, an education expert, emphasized Hakizimana's point that as long as students cannot widely access technological tools to ease e-learning, effectiveness is hard to achieve.

He added that not only students but also teachers, who were never before compelled to suddenly shift to remote learning, should be enabled to adjust easily and help students.

“If students are not well equipped and teachers and schools are not ready to adjust, then we cannot expect e-learning to be effective,” he said.

Asked what could be done to ensure, Rugira replied: “Provide the tools, equip teachers on how to teach using such methods, if this is not possible, I suspect teaching will hold on until the lockdown ends and students are back to school.”

‘Difficult process but possible’

However, Odette Mfurakazi, a mother of five children who are all in school, commends efforts that Rwanda Education Board has put forward to support continued studying.

“Some schools are doing their best and REB e-learning platforms and classes on radio will definitely help students,” she says.

Stephen Mugisha, who has been in the education sector for 19 years echoed Mfurakazi’s point that it is too early to expect much from e-learning, but current efforts are promising.

“It is a process that takes longer than just weeks. Having said that, REB should decentralize e-learning user-friendly platforms such as Facebook and use local radios, but still we cannot expect every student to easily access them,” he explains.

Since the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Rwanda on March 14th, Government instituted measures it deemed adequate to mitigate the risks of further spreading of the virus.

Among these measures, a decision was made that all schools and higher education institutions (both public and private) would close for an initial two-week period starting Monday, March 16, 2020, a period that was later extended by a month-long countrywide lockdown expected to end on April 19th.

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